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QUALITY OF WORKING LIFE AND WORK SCHEDULE

In recent past the term “Quality of Work Life” QWL has appeared in research journals and the press with remarkable regularity. The increasing concern for QWL has been due to several factors: (a) increase in education level and consequently job aspirations of employees, (b) association of workers, (C) significance of human resource management, (d) widespread industrial unrest, (e) growing of knowledge in human behavior, etc. The success of any organization is highly dependent on how it attracts recruits, motivates, and retains its workforce. Today's organizations need to be more flexible so that they are equipped to develop their workforce and enjoy their commitment. Therefore, organizations are required to adopt a strategy to improve the employees 'quality of work life' (QWL) to satisfy both the organizational objectives and employee needs. This article reviews the meaning of QWL, Models and Components of QWL, criteria of measuring QWL, issues, dimensions, principles of QWL and Various work schedule alternatives.

KEY WORDS

Quality, Quality of Work Life, Human Relations, Flexi-time, Compressed Workweek, Telecommuting, Job Sharing.

1.1 What is Quality of Work Life?

The term Quality of Working Life (QWL) has an assortment of meanings for different persons. According to J. Richard and J. Loy, QWL means, “the degree to which members of a work organization are able to satisfy important personnel needs through their experience in the organization.” Some regard it as industrial democracy, that is, more of employee participation in the management process. For managers and administrators, the term denotes improvement in the working conditions and respect of psychological needs. Trade unions and blue collar workers construe it as more job security, equitable profit sharing and healthy working conditions. For rest, the term takes a broad view of changing the organizational climate, structure and managerial system.

QWL refers to the favorableness or un-favorableness of a total job environment of the people. “QWL is the degree of which work in the organization contributes to material and psychological well being of its members.” – Harrison.

One expert defines QWL as “a process of joint decision making, collaborating and building mutual respect between management and employees.” D.S. Cohan: “The Quality of Work Life Movement Training,”HRD, Jan.1979,p.24.

During 1979, the American Society of Training and Development created a ‘Task Force’ on the quality of working life, defines QWL as, “QWL is a process of work organizations which enables its members at all levels to participate actively and efficiently in shaping the organizations environment, goals of enhanced effectiveness of the organization and improved quality of life at work for the employees.”

The basic purpose of QWL is to develop jobs and working conditions that are excellent for people as well as for the economic health of the organization. QWL provides a more humanized work environment. It attempts to serve the higher – order needs of workers as well as their more basic needs. It seeks to employ the higher skills of workers and to provide an environment that encourages improving their skills.

Q - Quest for excellence

U - Understanding

A - Action

L - Leadership

I - Involvement of the people

T - Team spirit

Y - Yardstick to measure progress

Quality of Work life is concerned with the following types of questions: J.R. Hackman and J.Ll Suttle: Improving Life at Work, Goodyear Pub.Co.Inc.,California,1977.

How to develop careers that allow employees to realize their full capabilities and interests?

How to design jobs to provide meaningful, interesting and challenging work experience?

How to utilize group dynamics and participative management to improve the quality of life at the workplace?

What supervisory strategies help to improve the quality of work life?

How can the desired organizational changes be carried out?

Quality of working life has been differentiated from the broader concept of quality of life. To some degree, this may be overly simplistic, as Elizur and Shye, (1990) concluded that quality of work performance is affected by quality of life as well as quality of working life. However, it will be argued here that the specific attention to work-related aspects of quality of life is valid.

Whilst quality of life has been more widely studied, quality of working life remains relatively unexplored and unexplained. A review of the literature reveals relatively little on quality of working life. Where quality of working life has been explored, writers differ in their views on its’ core constituents.

It is argued that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts as regards quality of working Life, and, therefore, the failure to attend to the bigger picture may lead to the failure of interventions which tackle only one aspect. A clearer understanding of the inter-relationship of the various facets of quality of working life offers the opportunity for improved analysis of cause and effect in the workplace.

This consideration of quality of working Life as the greater context for various factors in the workplace, such as job satisfaction and stress, may offer opportunity for more cost-effective interventions in the workplace. The effective targeting of stress reduction, for example, may otherwise prove a hopeless task for employers pressured to take action to meet governmental requirements. – Wikipedia

1.2 Models and components of quality of working life

Various authors and researchers have suggested models of quality of working life which are as follows:

Hackman and Oldham (1976) in their research “The Job Diagnostic Survey. New Haven: Yale University” drew attention to what they described as psychological growth needs as relevant to the consideration of Quality of working life. Several such needs were identified:

Skill variety,

Task Identity,

Task significance,

Autonomy and

Feedback.

They suggested that such needs have to be addressed if employees are to experience high quality of working life.

In contrast to such theory based models, Taylor (1979) in “The quality of working life in Western and Eastern Europe. ABP” more pragmatically identified the essential components of quality of working life as basic extrinsic job factors of wages, hours and working conditions, and the intrinsic job notions of the nature of the work itself. He suggested that a number of other aspects could be added, including:

individual power,

employee participation in the management,

fairness and equity,

social support,

use of one’s present skills,

self development,

a meaningful future at work,

social relevance of the work or product,

effect on extra work activities.

Taylor suggested that relevant quality of working life concepts may vary according to organisation and employee group.

Warr, P, Cook, J and Wall, T (1979) Scales for the measurement of some work attitudes and aspects of psychological well being. Journal of Occupational Psychology. 52, 129-148., in an investigation of quality of working life, considered a range of apparently relevant factors, including :

work involvement,

intrinsic job motivation,

higher order need strength,

perceived intrinsic job characteristics,

job satisfaction,

life satisfaction,

happiness, and

self-rated anxiety.

They discussed a range of correlations derived from their work, such as those between work involvement and job satisfaction, intrinsic job motivation and job satisfaction, and perceived intrinsic job characteristics and job satisfaction. In particular, Warr et al. found evidence for a moderate association between total job satisfaction and total life satisfaction and happiness, with a less strong, but significant association with self-rated anxiety.

Thus, whilst some authors have emphasized the workplace aspects in quality of working life, others have identified the relevance of personality factors, psychological well being, and broader concepts of happiness and life satisfaction.

Factors more obviously and directly affecting work has, however, served as the main focus of attention, as researchers have tried to tease out the important influences on quality of working life in the workplace.

Mirvis and Lawler (1984) suggested that quality of working life was associated with satisfaction with wages, hours and working conditions, describing the “basic elements of a good quality of work life” as:

safe work environment,

equitable wages,

equal employment opportunities and

opportunities for advancement.

Baba and Jamal (1991) listed what they described as typical indicators of quality of working life, including:

job satisfaction,

job involvement,

work role ambiguity,

work role conflict,

work role overload,

job stress,

organisational commitment and

turn-over intentions.

Baba and Jamal also explored routinisation of job content, suggesting that this facet should be investigated as part of the concept of quality of working life.

Some have argued that quality of working life might vary between groups of workers. For example, Ellis and Pompli (2002) identified a number of factors contributing to job dissatisfaction and quality of working life in nurses, including:

poor working environments,

resident aggression,

workload, innability to deliver quality of care preferred,

balance of work and family,

shiftwork,

lack of involvement in decision making,

professional isolation,

lack of recognition,

poor relationships with supervisor/peers,

role conflict,

lack of opportunity to learn new skills.

Sirgy et al. (2001) suggested that the key factors in quality of working life are:

need satisfaction based on job requirements,

need satisfaction based on work environment,

need satisfaction based on supervisory behaviour,

need satisfaction based on ancillary programmes,

organizational commitment.

They defined quality of working life as satisfaction of these key needs through resources, activities, and outcomes stemming from participation in the workplace. Needs as defined by the psychologist, Abraham Maslow, were seen as relevant in underpinning this model, covering health & safety, economic and family, social, esteem, actualization, knowledge and aesthetics, although the relevance of non-work aspects is play down as attention is focused on quality of work life rather than the broader concept of quality of life.

These attempts at defining quality of working life have included theoretical approaches, lists of identified factors, correlation analyses, with opinions varying as to whether such definitions and explanations can be both global, or need to be specific to each work setting.

Bearfield,(2003) used 16 questions to examine quality of working life, and distinguished between causes of dissatisfaction in professionals, intermediate clerical, sales and service workers, indicating that different concerns might have to be addressed for different groups.

The distinction made between job satisfaction and dissatisfaction in quality of working life reflects the influence of job satisfaction theories. Herzberg at al., (1959) used “Hygiene factors” and “Motivator factors” to distinguish between the separate causes of job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction. It has been suggested that Motivator factors are intrinsic to the job, that is; job content, the work itself, responsibility and advancement. The Hygiene factors or dissatisfaction-avoidance factors include aspects of the job environment such as interpersonal relationships, salary, working conditions and security. Of these latter, the most common cause of job dissatisfaction can be company policy and administration, whilst achievement can be the greatest source of extreme satisfaction.

An individual’s experience of satisfaction or dissatisfaction can be substantially rooted in their perception, rather than simply reflecting their “real world”. Further, an individual’s perception can be affected by relative comparison – am I paid as much as that person - and comparisons of internalized ideals, aspirations, and expectations, for example, with the individual’s current state (Lawler and Porter, 1966).

In summary, where it has been considered, authors differ in their views on the core constituents of Quality of Working Life (e.g. Sirgy, Efraty, Siegel & Lee, 2001 and Warr, Cook & Wall, 1979).

It has generally been agreed however that Quality of Working Life is conceptually similar to well-being of employees but differs from job satisfaction which solely represents the workplace domain (Lawler, 1982)

Quality of Working Life is not a unitary concept, but has been seen as incorporating a hierarchy of perspectives that not only include work-based factors such as job satisfaction, satisfaction with pay and relationships with work colleagues, but also factors that broadly reflect life satisfaction and general feelings of well-being (Danna & Griffin, 1999). More recently, work-related stress and the relationship between work and non-work life domains (Loscocco & Roschelle, 1991) have also been identified as factors that should conceptually be included in Quality of Working Life.

1.3 Criteria for measuring QWL

Richard E. Walton explains QWL in terms of eight broad conditions of employment that constitute desirable QWL. The proposed the same criteria for measuring QWL. These criteria/ conditions include:

Adequate and fair compensation

Safe and health working conditions

Opportunity to use and develop human capacities

Contrary to the traditional assumptions, QWL is improved…” to the extent that the worker can exercise more control over his or her work, and the degree to which the job embraces an entire meaningful task “but not a part of it. Further, QWL provides for opportunities like autonomy in work and participation in planning in order to use human capabilities.

Opportunity for Career growth

Opportunities for promotion are limited in case of all categories of Employees either gibe to educational barriers or limited openings at higher Level. QWL provides opportunities for continue growth and security by Expanding one’s capabilities, knowledge and Qualification.

Social integration in the workforce

This can be established by creating freedom from prejudice, Supporting primary work groups, a sense of community inter-personnel Openness, egalitarianism and upward mobility.

Constitutionalism in work Organization

QWL provides constitutional protection to the employees only to the Level of desirability on such matters as privacy, free speech, equity and due Process.

Work and QWL

QWL provide for balanced relationship among work, non-work, and Family aspects of life. In other words, family life and social life should be Strain by working hours including over time work, work during inconvenient Hours, business travel, transfers, vacations etc…..

Social relevance of work

QWL is concerned about the establishment of social relevance to work in a socially beneficial manner. The worker’s self-esteem would be high if this work is useful to the society and vice versa is also true.

It is worth nothing that often the condition that contribute to motivation like equitable salaries, financial incentives, effective employee selection etc….will also contribute indirectly to QWL. Some of these activities like job enrichment might contribute indirectly to QWL by tapping the workers high-order need, and motivating them. Still other activities may contribute directly to QWL providing for a safer work place, less discrimination on the job, and so forth.

1.4 Specific issues in QWL

Trade unions claim that they are responsible for the improvements in various facilities to the workers where as management takes credit fro improved salaries, benefits and facilities. However, HR manger has Specific issues in providing them so as to maintain a higher order QWL. Klott, Mundick and Schusterd suggested 11 major QWL issues, they are as follows:

Pay and stability of employment

Good pay still dominates most of the other factors in employee Satisfaction. Various alternative means for providing wages should be developed in view of increase in cost of living index, increase in levels and rates of income tax and profession tax . Enhancing the facilities for human resource development can provide stability to a greater extent.

Occupational stress

Stress is a condition of strain on one’s emotions, thought process and physical condition. It is determined by the nature or work, working conditions, working hours, pause in the work schedule, worker’s abilities and nature and match with the job requirements. Stress is caused due to irritability, hyper excitation or depression, unstable behavior, fatigue stuttering, trembling, psychosomatic pains, heavy smoking and drug abuse. Stress adversely affects employee’s productivity. The HR manager, in order to minimize the stress, has to identify, prevent, and tackle the problem. He may arrange for the treatment of the problem with the health unit of the company.

Organizational health programs

Effective implementation of health programs result in reduction in absenteeism, hospitalization, disability, excessive job turnover and premature death. They should also cover relaxation, physical exercise, diet control etc..,

Alternative work schedules

Alternative work schedules including work at home, flexible working hours, staggered hours, reduced work week, part time employment that may be introduced for the convenience and comfort of the workers.

Participative management control

Workers feel that they have control and over their work, use their Skills and make a real contribution to the job if they are allowed to Participate in creative and decision making process.

Recognition

Recognizing employee as a human being rather than as a laborer Increases the QWL. Participative management award and reward System, congratulating the employees for their achievement, job Enrichment, offering prestigious to the jobs, providing well Furnished and decent work place offering membership in clubs or Associations, providing vehicles or some of the means to recognize the Employees.

Congenial superior sub-ordinate relationships

Harmonious supervisor workers relations give the worker a sense of Social association, a sense of belongingness; we should not ignore the Impact of social relations at the work place the productivity resulting from this.

Grievance procedure

Proper grievance procedure that is quick and justified gives employees an opportunity to vent their feelings and represent their case.

Adequacy of resources

Resources should match with the stated objectives, otherwise, Employees will not able to attain them resulting in employee dissatisfaction and lower QWL.

Senior merit in promotions

Companies either take seniority or merit as basis for promoting the employees, each of these methods have their relative disadvantages and hence it is advisable to take both of them together in promotion policy there by resulting in higher QWL.

Employment on permanent basis

Job security adds a lot not to QWL, for employees working on Temporary basis or on probation are constantly worried about this. Employing them on permanent basis reduces their sense of insecurity and enhances the QWL.

1.5 Dimensions of QWL

According to Richard Walton, the main aspects of QWL are as follows:

1.6 Principles of QWL

N.Q. Herrick and M. Maccoby: “Humanizing Work: A Priority Goal of the 1970s’ in L.E. Davis and A.B Cherns: The QWL, Free Press, New York, 1975, has stated 4 basic principles to improve the QWL:

1. The Principle of Security

Quality of work life cannot be improved until employees are relieved of the anxiety, fear and loss of future employment. The working condition must be safe and economic want should be eliminated. Job security and safety against occupational hazards is an essential precondition of humanization of work.

2. The Principle of Equity

There should be direct and positive relation between effort and reward. All types of discrimination between people doing similar work and with same level of performance must be eliminated.

3. The Principle of Individualism

Employees differ in terms of their attitudes, skill, potential, etc. Therefore, every individual should be provided the opportunity for development of his personality and potential.

4. Principle of Democracy

This means greater authority and responsibility to employees.

Stop Cribbing! Our Work Culture’s the Best

It might surprise many. But Indian Inc has emerged top in a recent survey on high performance work culture in Asia Pacific Region. Indian Companies which accounted for over one-third of the respondents consistently outperformed their counterparts from Singapore, South Korea, China and Australia on Parameters like Strategic goals, leaders as role models, employee communication, talent attraction and attention, effective processes, etc.

Source: The Economic Times, June, 2003

1.7 How to Improve Quality of Working Life

1. Fair and Equitable remuneration.

2. Reasonable stability of employment.

3. Employee Health and Safety Programmes.

4. Alternative Work Schedules.

5. Participative Management.

6. Recognition of employees as human beings.

7. Grievance Procedure and effective leadership.

8. Management of Employee Stress.

9. Job Redesign and Enrichment.

(Gupta C.B “Human Resource Management” pub: Sultan Chand & Sons, edition 2009.)

2.1 Work Schedules

One of the most important techniques of improving the Quality of Work Life is to improve the Work Schedule. Various alternative Work Schedules are:

Compressed Workweek

Some organizations have introduced short work week, that is, instead of coming 6 or 5 days a week, the employees only have to work for 4 days. But the no. of working hour per day is increased say, 10 hours per day which makes to 40 hours per week.

Advantages

More leisure time

Decreased commuting time

Decreased request for time for personal matters

Disadvantages

Decreased employee productivity due to longer day

Underutilization of equipment

Increased fatigue

Flexitime

Flexitime is a system whereby employees are required to work a specific no of hours a week but are free to vary the hours of work within certain limits. Each day consists of a common ore, usually of 4 hours, excluding Lunch hour.

For example, the core may be 10 am to 3 pm with the office actual opening at 7 am and closing at 6 pm. All employees should be at their jobs during the common core period but they are free to fashion their personal schedules they prefer.

Flexible Hour

Common Core

Lunch

Common Core

Flexible Hour

7 p.m

3 p.m

10 a.m

7 a.m

Source: D.A. Ralston and M.F. Flanagan, “the effect of Flexitime on Absenteeism and Turnover for Male and Female Employees”, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, April 1985,pp 206-17.

Advantages

Higher morale

Lower absenteeism

Longer Length of Service

Disadvantages

It cannot be implemented at all when the work requires al employees to be present at the same time.

It may produce problem to the manger in directing subordinates outside the core time period.

Cause confusion where there is shift or interdependent work.

Telecommuting

Working from home with the help of internet technology is one of the ways of being a part of an organization. Instead of visiting the office daily, the employee is given the option to work from home for some specific duration. It is mainly suitable for research based works, data entry, etc.

Advantages

Saves time and effort

Cost effective

No commuting problem

Job Sharing

It may also be stated as shift working, wherein, 2 persons share same job, say one works in the morning and the other in the afternoon or at night.

(Source: Chhabra .T.N.”Human Resource Management”)

3.1 Conclusion

Quality of work life covers various aspects under the general umbrella of supportive organizational behavior. QWL has gained deserved prominence in the Organizational Behavior as an indicator of the overall of human experience in the work place. It expresses a special way of thinking about people, their work and the organizational in which careers are fulfilled.

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